Most parents struggle to persuade their children to develop a liking for healthy foods. But they may not realize that the main reason for their kids’ negative perceptions of certain foods is because of their lack of knowledge regarding what goes into their food, its benefits, and how they are prepared. The best strategy would be to involve your kids in the cooking process from a young age. Encouraging kids to participate in the kitchen ensures that they develop a taste for a wide range of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and much more. Research has also found that initiating kids in cooking tasks can be instrumental in stimulating their motor, sensory and cognitive growth.
Children should get accustomed to kitchen conditions to overcome the anxiety they may have developed around certain ingredients. If you involve your kids in the different stages of the cooking process, they are more likely to be enthusiastic about consuming the meal that they have helped prepare. Apart from developing good food habits, the feeling of accomplishment they experience from partaking in kitchen activities can do wonders in building their overall confidence.
Some parents may be unsure about the safety of their kids in a kitchen environment. This is why the tasks handed to kids must be age-appropriate.
Toddlers (0-2 years)
A good start would be to let your toddlers just observe you cooking. However, you do need to keep a watchful eye at all times and keep them away from any combustible or sharp objects around the space. You can make them sit in a high chair or a playpen and hand them a few harmless kitchen utensils to play with and get used to. Non-breakable bowls, spatulas, whisks, for instance. Talk to them about the foods you are cooking and let them touch and smell different ingredients during the process. What you are actually doing here is trying to establish a positive associative pattern for them concerning food and cooking, in general.
2 to 4 years
This is the ideal age for kids to start helping their parents with kitchen tasks. Even if they are uninitiated, encourage them to watch you and pick up some basic tasks. These may include -
- Pouring ingredients into bowls.
- Rinsing veggies and fruits.
- Stir batter in a bowl.
- Pick out herbs, and spices, and sprinkle them into the cooking pan.
Kids of this age are very capable of doing these tasks but would need constant guidance. You will be surprised at how quickly your kid picks up pace around the kitchen. That being said, do remember that at this point in their life, overstimulation by assigning them too many chores can lead to exhaustion. So, only engage them when they are full of energy and let them rest or play when fatigued or distracted.
4 to 6 years old
By 4 years of age, most kids have already begun preschool. As a result of that, their motor and cognitive abilities should have improved significantly. So it will be good to put these to the test by handing them some more specific tasks such as:
- Measuring ingredients.
- Slicing soft foods with a plastic knife.
- Cracking eggs or peeling a hard-boiled egg.
- Juicing lemons and limes.
- Helping you knead a pizza dough.
- Setting timers as you cook, essentially playing the role of an assistant in the kitchen.
- Helping you set up the table before a meal and cleaning up after finishing.
7 to 10 years old
At this age, kids will become habituated to a few cooking-prep basics, considering they did learn all the former tasks through their growing up years. Now is the time for them to try out a few kitchen appliances. Although, it is up to your discretion if you deem them fit to handle more complex pieces of equipment such as stoves and ovens. Some tasks they should be able to master in addition to the ones already mentioned are :
- To accompany you and pick out ingredients during grocery shopping.
- Stirring ingredients as you cook on the stove.
- Read steps off recipe books.
- Peel fruits and vegetables under supervision.
- Use a cheese grater.
- Load and unload dishes from the dishwasher.
It may take some time for your kids to do these tasks accurately. Therefore, it is essential to involve your kids in the cooking process early on and make them feel valued in the kitchen. After your child masters all the secondary cooking activities, they’ll soon contend for being the sous-chef of the house. However, we know that these skills are not acquired overnight, so it is necessary to lay the foundation piece by piece.
Here are 7 tips you can implement to make cooking a fun and learning-filled activity for your kids:
- Go grocery shopping with your kids.
- Read recipe books and plan meals together.
- Start a backyard garden.
- Hand out important but safe tasks to your kids in the kitchen.
- Broaden your kid’s taste palate.
- Celebrate after the meal is prepared.
- Make your kitchen stress-free.
Go grocery shopping with your kids
This is how you should start involving your kids in the cooking process. Encouraging them to accompany you to the grocer’s or the farmer’s market is crucial. From these trips to the market, they will begin to identify food items they’ve only learned about in school textbooks so far. This helps them feel more connected with the food that they eat and also helps them realize that it takes hard work and real people to grow food - so they will be less inclined to waste it. Let them pick their favorite ingredient and use it in your next meal. They will be motivated to eat if the recipes include items they have handpicked themselves.
Read recipe books and plan meals together
When you plan and discuss the meals in advance, your kids will not feel so intimidated by any new ingredients you plan to include. Reading recipe books together can also be fun. And if your kids are of the age that they can read fluently, they can read the instructions out of a cookbook out loud while you perform the dictated steps. You could also let them choose which recipe to cook, every now and then. When they see a picture come to life, they will be excited to try it out - even if it is something they have not tasted before.
Start a backyard garden
To involve your kids in the cooking process, they should have first-hand experience with all the elements that make any dish. Getting your children involved in backyard gardening is a great way to get them excited about veggies, spices, and herbs used in meal preparation. It is an activity that teaches kids about many things - the beauty of nature, patience, and supervision, as they watch a veggie or a herb growing from the ground to being included in their meals. Through these learnings, it is expected that your kids will grow to have more respect for people involved in food production, retail, and food in itself.
Hand out important but safe tasks to your kids in the kitchen
You could start by letting your children perform simple, harmless tasks, such as measuring ingredients, rinsing vegetables, or slicing softer foods with plastic knives. If you use an oven or need to let a dish simmer, you could have your kids be in charge of keeping track of the time. They will feel personally responsible for being an important part of the cooking process and be willing to try out the fruits of their labor.
Broaden your kid’s taste palate
You could also have them do taste tests while the food is cooking. You will know in advance if they prefer the flavor and accordingly, you can administer changes. This is a good practice for broadening your kid’s taste palate. Also, kids will be less averse to the food on their plates if they have tried it prior and approved it themselves. Nymble also offers diverse and nutritionally balanced recipes and will help your kids acquire a taste for different types of food.
Celebrate after a meal has been prepared
One of the most important parts of involving your children in the cooking process is always celebrating their contributions. If kids feel that their contributions are not worthwhile, they will be less inclined to participate next time. Make them feel good about all the work that they have put in. Appreciate all the small efforts that they have put into the making of any dish. Encourage asking questions in the kitchen and make a note of their feedback. From planning and cooking to eating – a special parent-child bonding session is being nurtured. Not only will the children learn to eat healthily, but they will also grow up to be responsible individuals - in the kitchen, and in all other aspects of life.
Is Nymble kid friendly?
By automating your entire cooking process with Nymble, the cooking is entirely taken care of. This leaves a chunk of time for ingredient preparation which can be a great time for you to educate your kids about what goes into their food and encourage them to participate as well. As an adult, you are more likely to be less stressed about the cooking process. A stress-free kitchen is more inviting for a child. Plus, an interactive, informative and intuitive private chef like ours also adds personality to your kitchen and helps you design meals for kids based on their diet and preferences. It is essentially an exhaustive guide for everyday cooking, for your entire family.
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